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SUDDENLY, SOMEWHERE, SOMEONE AND SAHIR LUDHIANVI…

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Ali Peter John

Why this sudden love for the poet, Sahir Ludhianvi? Why are people who can’t even spell his name or pronounce want to suddenly write books about him, with or without doing any research about his life and love? Are they aware of the significance of Sahir’s poetry or are they only interested in him because they have heard about the extraordinary love affair between Sahir and the renowned painter and poetess, Amrita Pritam? Why are so many writers claiming to be authorities about his life and his work as one of the most revolutionary and the most romantic poet of the century? Why does a young ‘baniya’ clerk give up all his work and spend three years in writing the biography of the people’s poet and at the end of it fails to do justice to Sahir, his work or his love? Why are playwrights hankering to write plays based on Sahir and the magic he worked? Why can’t they leave Sahir and his love alone? Don’t they have other more important poets they can write about? Why this sudden interest in Sahir to make a biopic at a time when they are looking for celebrities in the world of different sports? Have our writers and filmmakers grown so bereft of original subjects when there are hundreds of subjects waiting to be talked about, written about and made films about? What would Sahir have to say about this strange madness about him after his death almost forty years ago? Or are they all taking advantage of Sahir because he has no one to claim any rights in his story, because there are some of his contemporaries who should see that no injustice should be done to him, but are only trying to claim that they and only they could know Sahir and only they can write books or make films about the poet who had many friends and still didn’t have any friends? Why are they interested in a poet who loved India and wrote about the present and worried about the future of India and tried our for the need to save India? Why will they be interested in Sahir now when he was called a bitter and pessimistic poet who had seen a bleak future for Indians (woh subah kabhi toh aayegi) which was the state of India soon after independence and has only changed, not for the better but only for worse? Why would a filmmaker take the risk of bringing life the truth about India and Indians when both are living through the times he had seen or visualised and which is coming true with every passing day with the poor growing poorer, the rich and the corrupt growing more and more corrupt and the common man’s dreams and desires being crushed under the kind of power which is growing more and more drunk?

If you ask me, the only man who did justice to Sahir was the brave ‘English’ actor, Tom Alter, who was more Indian than any Indian and who could speak and write Urdu like no shaayar or professor of Urdu could. In fact, I and many like me felt Tom Alter living the life of Sahir was like Sahir coming alive, but now Tom Alter too is gone….

The actress Deepti Naval has always been inspired by the life and work of Amrita Pritam, so much that she even believes that she is a reincarnation of Amrita Pritam. She found the dance of a lifetime to play Amrita in a play called ‘Ek Mulaqat’ in which Shekhar Suman played Sahir. The play was a huge success and they made a lot of money. I have seen the play twice and I could not feel the spirit of Sahir moving anywhere, on stage or in the auditoriums where the play has been stages countless times during the last two years and every time I saw the play running to full houses, I wondered whether the audience had suddenly woken up to Sahir or whether seeing the play based on Sahir had become one more fad in an era when fads and fakes are so common in this uncommon country.

There is now a tussle between who can make a better biopic on Sahir. The well-known filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali has been toying with the idea of making a biopic on Sahir and it all looked good at least to me when I believed that Bhansali would direct the film, but now it is known that Bhansali will only produce the film and it will be directed by a newcomer. It is also known that Abhishek Bachchan has been signed to play Sahir in the biopic. If it was the young Amitabh who had made a beginning as a Shakespearean actor, there would be no worrying about Sahir coming to life, but with Abhishek, with all due respect to his talent, I still feel he has a long way to go to understand what Sahir was, that he was not only a great poet, but was a philosophy, an institution,a prophet and even a religion. It is still not create who will play Amrita, but I don’t think there are many actresses among the ruling lot who can come anywhere near playing or rather living Amrita Pritam.

In the meanwhile, the man who considers himself one of the last great Urdu poets, Javed Akhtar has staked his claim to be the only man who can make a biopic on Sahir because he was closely associated with Sahir who was a very good friend of his poet-father Jan Nissar Akhtar and who had the privilege of calling Sahir ‘Mamujaan’. Javed always wanted to be a director, but does he still have the fire to direct a film, especially a biopic on Sahir. Knowing a person and making a film about him are two very different things, Javed Akhtar should know and now that a company like Sanjay Leela Bhansali Productions has decided to make the ultimate film on Sahir, I think Javed Akhtar will have to give up his idea of making the biopic and if he still has the respect for Sahir, he should go out of his way to help the director of Bhansali’s biopic the things he knows about Sahir and he thinks no one else can know.

As I wish whoever is making the biopic on Sahir, I am concerned about the silences, the screams and the soothing words with which Sahir gave love a new dimension and more than anything I am concerned about whether they will bring the turmoils of Sahir’s early life, the silent screams of his love life and the miserable end he had to face, the proof (his dilapidated flat and his demolished bungalow) and the ego he had (the proof being his asking to be paid more than the music directors, the singers and in some cases even the stars.

Sahir is not the name of an easy life and so Sahir cannot be an easy to make a film about.

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Tags: Bollywood, Bollywood News, Bollywood Updates, Television, Telly News, Sahir Ludhianvi, Jan Nissar Akhtar

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